Congratulations. Managing the Red Sox is a dream job for anyone who doesn't have it. You will be the most scrutinized boss in New England, especially now that the FBI is no longer "tracking" Whitey Bulger.
Good luck, sir, you're going to need it.
Every Red Sox fan - at least once or twice a game - knows that he or she can do the job better than you. Every move you make will be second-guessed, criticized, analyzed, applauded or jeered, depending on the result. You will almost always be wrong. We will almost always be right.
Very few of us know first-hand the challenges of managing multi-millionaires with guaranteed contracts and the massive talent and ego helped them earn those multi-million dollar deals. The Red Sox team that you greet on Day One in Fort Myers cannot bear any real resemblance to the team that sulked off the field in humiliating defeat Wednesday night in the Bronx.
Many of the core players will or perhaps should be the same - the cheerful Cody Ross, the surgically-repaired Dustin Pedroia, the hopefully re-signed and content David Oritz, the genuine Texas-Could-Be-Tough-Guy Will Middlebrooks, the-ever-consistent Clay Buchholz and the glad-this-season-is-over Jon Lester. This core has as much potential to win the coveted first or second-wildcard as does the Orioles or A's and is strong enough to even reach the ALCS. There is neither enough firepower at the plate nor octane on the mound to win a division nor survive pair of seven-game series and win a World Series.
In 2012 we had "100 Years of Fenway. In 2013, it's "Nowhere To Go But Up."
Pass that one along to the marketing department and then you can remain focused on helping the GM assemble the best possible team for the long-term (i.e. two years from now) success of this franchise. Everybody hates losing. But Bostonians still revel in it. Permanent pessimism remains the default position for any Red Sox fan over the age of 30, But that's only because we use it to hide the pain. Our children and grandchildren carry the same type of naive eternal optimism found in places like Kansas City, Denver and Phoenix. Their foundation is one of success, victory and championships. The choke of 2011 and capitulation of 2012 are the exceptions to their rule. This season, however, left Red Sox Nation drained and lifeless across all demographic categories.
There were no novels to be written after this season, no prolific odes for the team's poet laureate, no "curses" to put to music on Broadway, but there were plenty of curses yelled each night at the TV and enough "f-bombs" to make Tony Montana or Henry Hill blush.
By virtue of the fact that you have been deemed competent enough to be hired for this job - God willing by Ben Cherington and not Larry Lucchino - you already know and have assessed the potential big-name free agents. We all know that there is no Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols or Justin Verlander walking through that door in the Green Monster. Although Cliff Lee couldn't hurt if the players and money involved (he's making $25.5 million in 2013) weren't too much to give up in trade.
No matter who ends up wearing the Red Sox uniform and what the starting lineup on April Fools' Day in the Bronx (or perhaps the night before) looks like, there are several things you can do to stand out from your immediate predecessor. You caught a break coming to the Red Sox at this time. Expectations have been neutered. The team is coming off its worst season since 1965. And the horrible performance on the field was magnified several-hundred fold by one stumble and bumble after another.
Moe, Larry and Curley had a clearer chain of command than the Red Sox this past year.
You are fortunate to be replacing Bobby Valentine. It would be nearly impossible to do any worse in 2013 than he did in 2012. Valentine didn't lose control of the Red Sox, he never had it, nor ever cared to. His presence was all about Bobby Valentine from his introductory press conference to final, whining farewells this week. This is not about you, it's about them. If you can get through your first press conference without being the star of the show, that will be considered progress.
Simply doing a better job than your predecessor won't be good enough. Everyone will demand a championship every year. But Red Sox fans as a whole are a patient lot and will give you and the organization a chance as long as they are treated like adults and not a bunch of six-year-olds who still believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the second wildcard when the team is 12 games out in August. My parents both lived their entire lives without ever seeing a World Series parade in Boston. Most of their grandchildren, on the other hand, don't remember a time when the Red Sox hadn't won a championship Trust me on this one, Mr. New Manager, Red Sox fans are a patient and forgiving, if given the chance.
Reasonable Red Sox fans - no that's not an oxymoron - know this team is at least two years away from serious contention, if not three. You'll have a guaranteed contract, probably at least three-years in length. So act accordingly.
Be the boss.
Neither accept nor dispense bull----, especially when dealing with the players.
Do not follow and get everyone else the hell out of your way. Dealing with the media is a part of the job, but they are not your core audience nor do they generate the bajillions of dollars needed to sustain the Monster and all whom work beneath its spell. Be professional and they will/should act accordingly. Don't play them off one and another and don't, under any circumstances, allow yourself to become the story with foolishness and faux threats to punch them in the nose. And you're free to ignore what idiots like me say once you're done reading this letter.
Simply put: "Do your job."
Bostonians do not want celebrity managers. This isn't New York or Los Angeles. They want managers and coaches who can help turn athletes into celebrities and champions. Bill Belichick says nothing every week and we love it. Any 2nd-grader in Randolph can today quote verbatim Belichick's entire press conference that's to come after Sunday's game against the Broncos - win or lose.
And losers will get a chance, too, if they are seen to be competent and aren't obsessed with their own self-promotion. Doc Rivers came to Boston and endured a 2-22 stretch in his third season. And while a few fools called for his head, his talent, commitment and the fact that the team had bottomed out allowed cooler heads to prevail in the front office and in the stands. While Claude Julien would have gotten the boot if Nathan Horton had not scored in double-overtime of Game 5 or in overtime of Game 7 in April 2011, he was given a long and forgiving leash by the Bruins' base after that four-game collapse against Philly in 2010.
Mr. Next Red Sox Manager, you can relax knowing that at least you'll be allowed to finish a season once you start given the fact that your bosses kept Valentine around until the end of 2012. Terry Francona came to Boston with an unassuming record, a low-key personality and had been most heralded for managing Michael Jordan in the minors.
Francona left town with two World Series rings and the eventual and enduring respect and appreciation of the Red Sox fan base, if not his former and your current employers.
Keep that in mind as you begin this job. We're all rooting for you, even when you get ripped on talk radio or see the occasional middle finger salute after taking out your starter in the fifth. You have millions of people - of all ages, races, genders, sexual orientations, heights, weights, income levels, political affiliations and religions - wishing you nothing but the best. And we're everywhere - extending far beyond the Bangor-to-Bridgeport Axis. We are serving in Afghanistan, studying in France, working in Chicago, sleeping in Seattle. (This column was written in Florida.)
Just because we all don't want to sing "Sweet Caroline" when the Red Sox are losing 8-1 doesn't mean we don't care. We are united in our genuine passion for the Red Sox and hope that you're able to bring a championship team back to Fenway Park.
Even if we all think we know better than you how to do it.
Best of luck.
To help take your mind off the baseball playoffs that have bypassed Boston for the third straight season, join us Sunday at 4 p.m. for our in-game Patriots-Broncos fan chat. As always, let us know what you think. Post your thoughts here, on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page or e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @realOBF.
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